BITE Focus

“It’s one thing to adopt the code it’s another thing to change the culture.” Why TimeTo is taking its campaign to eradicate sexual harassment to Cannes

TimeTo’s hard hitting campaign is a reminder of the need to continue the drive to eradicate sexual harassment in advertising.

Nicola Kemp

Managing Editor, BITE


Welcome to Cannes/ careful not to get burnt/ I can put some sun cream on your back / and your front/ don’t be shy.

These words, which form the basis of an outdoor advert, are perhaps not the welcome that visitors to next week’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity would expect.

The outdoor ads, which will feature in airports and at the Palais, are part of a hard-hitting campaign by Lucky Generals and form part of the ongoing TimeTo ‘Where do you draw the line’ activity to end sexual harassment in advertising.

Helen Calcraft, a Founding Partner at Lucky Generals and member of the TimeTo steering committee, says the most dangerous thing is if people stop talking about sexual harassment and believe the problem is solved: “It is easy to assume this is a problem that is fixed; we can’t afford to make that mistake. We must advocate for an urgent change in culture.”

“As an industry there is a real will and desire across the industry for positive change, but it is one thing to adopt the code; it’s another to change the culture,” she added.  

A cultural reset

Almost a year has passed since TimeTo, which is a collaboration between the Advertising Association, NABS and WACL, unveiled research which shone a light on the scale of the problem. The research revealed that 20% of female respondents aged 18 to 24 have already been sexually harassed in the few years they have spent working in the industry. When one in five young women have experienced harassment, the industry cannot afford to get complacent.

Calcraft, who has spoken publicly about her experience of being sexually harassed in her twenties, underlines the fact that sexual harassment is not a relic of the ‘Mad Men’ days of advertising gone by.

According to Calcraft, speaking up, both if you experience sexual harassment but also if you witness it, is vital. “We have to end the culture of silence,” she explains. “We have to create an open and inclusive dialogue. This cannot be about men versus women or old versus young, it is about everyone coming together to create change. We need to be prepared to have difficult conversations.”

TimeTo Cannes Suncream.jpg

Pressure points

The team believe that by running the high-profile campaign at the festival, they have the opportunity to question their behaviour in real time: “One of the principal reasons to have a presence at the festival is as an industry, when we are celebrating the best work, we need to ensure that there aren’t any dark shadows.”

Calcraft acknowledges that sexual harassment is a “difficult and sensitive subject” and creating an inclusive movement for change has always been the lynchpin of the TimeTo movement. It’s a momentum reflected in the range of media owners supporting the campaign.

Ascential, the owner of Cannes Lions, is providing digital screens at the Palais Centre, with JC Decaux providing screens at Heathrow and Clear Channel providing inventory at the festival. Editorial and event support for the campaign has also been pledged from The Drum, Little Black Book, Mediatel and Creativebrief.

“There is something courageous about the industry in running this campaign. In many other industries, they simply wouldn’t do it,” Calcraft added. She believes that speaking out, regardless of your role in the industry, is key to driving the long-term cultural change needed to end sexual harassment.  “Our strategy is to give people the tools for change, but this is just the start,” she added.

The cross-media support for the TimeTo campaign comes as the code has been endorsed by 204 companies from across the industry. A dedicated TimeTo session will run in L Jardin de Clear Channel on Wednesday 19th June from 2-3pm, with speakers including Helen Calcraft, Alice Archer, Director of Communications at IPG Mediabrands EMEA, Ollie Easthope, Creative Copywriter at RAPP and Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive of the Advertising Association.


No one should have to experience sexual harassment any time or anywhere. If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, contact NABS, which offers free confidential advice, guidance and support on 0800 707 6607 or

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